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Seeing Green

The Century Club celebrates a century of giving back


When he came to San Diego as a boy, Roberto Rosas couldn’t speak English. Adults impressed by the sixth-grader helped him to get a scholarship from one of San Diego’s private schools, and now Rosas is on full academic scholarship at Columbia University.

The same organization that aided Rosas also assisted Diana Romero, a girl in City Heights. She responded by earning a master’s degree in public health and now counsels City Heights residents on health and nutrition.

Similar success stories play out every year in San Diego. Without the Century Club of San Diego, they’d be far less numerous.

A nonprofit corporation that manages San Diego’s annual Professional Golf Association event, the Farmers Insurance Open, the Century Club has donated $20.4 million to charities since its creation in 1961. Among the Century’s favorite charities is the Pro Kids Golf Academy and Learning Center, set in a two-story building at the Colina Park Golf Course in City Heights, east of downtown San Diego.

Many children in City Heights face poverty, language barriers, and gangs. Statistics show the community has high rates of domestic violence, high school dropouts, and youth crime.

Pro Kids, which counts Rosas and Romero among its alums, has sponsored 100 children’s college education at a cost of more than $1.4 million. Since its birth in 1994, the charity has received $1 million-plus from the Century Club, which also shares the talents and time of its own staff—65 active members plus nearly 50 others, many of them successful in the business world.

“So many Century Club members are really good models and mentors to our children,” says Marty Remmell, CEO of Pro Kids.

She tells of Phil Ward, a past president of the Century Club who endowed a scholarship at Pro Kids, and of Tom Remensperger, a general contractor who brought 30 of his sub-contractors to the academy, leading to another $13,000 in donations.

This year, the Century Club donated $1.74 million to some 200 charities. Its bond with Pro Kids is special, a love of golf shared.

“We want to get the kids hooked on golf,” Remmell says. “Then, they have to work to stay with it.”

Points are needed for Pro Kids children to play golf at Colina Park or to buy golf equipment, and to get the points children must perform community service and go on educational field trips. A golf theme also prevails in the Homework Club, in which girls and boys are tutored in reading, writing, and math and, in so doing, might play a virtual round of golf at Pebble Beach.

Golf creates the Century Club’s success. Tens of thousands of people go to Torrey Pines Golf Course for a week every winter to see stars such as Tiger Woods and Rancho Santa Fe’s Phil Mickelson. Watching on TV are audiences that often run larger than for any other PGA event, save the majors.

Torrey Pines’ grandeur and San Diego’s weather give the Century Club an edge over managers of other golf tournaments. “It’s not like we’re trying to polish a sneaker,” says incoming president Peter Ripa. “We’re selling a premium product.”

But the Century Club isn’t satisfied with its success. Improvements are in store for the next Farmers Insurance Open, January 23-29, including an entrance bridge traversing the course’s parking lot that will afford a view of the North and South courses, concession stands that accept credit cards and are three times as numerous than  years past, and faster shuttle service from off-site parking.

If the improvements yield more aid to charities such as Pro Kids, call it a birdie or an eagle. “To hear the stories of these kids that were in trouble and really not having the stars in their eyes that college is a possibility—that’s pretty cool,” Ripa says. 

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